James Bond 007 Scalextric in action
The James Bond 007 Scalextric set joins a long tradition of slot car racing involving Ian Fleming's other famous creation. While some of us might still be holding out for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the wait is ably filled by the character's close association with Aston Martin. This set has two of them, a DB5 as seen in Goldfinger and a later V8 as seen in The Living Daylights.
Read, set, go! Photo: Andrew Robertson
They have working head and rear lights, and the more modern car has a green light under the front wheels to replicate a laser. That itself is an homage to the tyre-shredding spikes on the older car, concealed in the hubs of the wire wheels. At least on film, anyway, some things are hard to replicate at scale.
The details on the cars are impressive, including a tuxedoed Bond in each. The likenesses are nowhere near either Sean Connery or Timothy Dalton. It's not that it couldn't be achieved with some fidelity even in 1/32 scale, but that it doesn't matter. The cars are the stars. These aren't the fanciest versions of them either. The V8 has an alternate version with the extended skis for snow-running, and the DB5 joins a long tradition of Scalextric versions. The earliest, in 1967, had a working ejector seat that triggered after a certain number of laps. This one doesn't, but that vintage is where some of the set's issues lie.
It's undeniably fun. After reviewing the K.I.T.T. vs Back To The Future Time Machine set last year I wanted a slightly different set of circumstances so took it to my parents' house to borrow their dining room table. This does, just about, fit, but there were some issues with track fitment. I suspect some of that may have been to a slightly uneven surface, but I didn't have the same issues with the other track. It might be that my own living room floor is closer to true but given that it's a century old tenement flat I doubt it.
Scalextric track has been updated to a new style of connector, which means it's not readily compatible with older track. The older system used a kind of gromet that snapped over a protruding plug, removing it almost inevitably ended up with bent bits. The newer system uses push-fit connectors and a smaller retaining block. These hold relatively well but where the metal rails protrude any distance beyond the plastic track it's not as solid as might be hoped. There are always trade-offs with manufacturing, and I suspect that with more regular use any quirks will bed in.
Less likely to be resolved with age is an imbalance between the cars. In addition to borrowing the dining room table, setting things up at the parental home meant I could make use of a key element of any toy reviewer's arsenal, a youngest sibling. There's no keener detector of injustice, and it helps that they're a lecturer in electrical engineering.
James Bond 007 Scalextric cars on scales Photo: Andrew Robertson
The DB5 is showing its age as a model. Unlike the later V8, it has the motor perpendicular to the rear axle, and uses a geared transfer to move power through the car. The V8 does too, but without need for a shaft. The weight distribution on the two cars is quite different too, as is their weight. Four grams might not seem like much, but the benefit in handling is more palpable. Though both are equipped with neodymium magnets for track-holding, those on the V8 are more exposed, better placed to the rear, and are assisting slick rather than grooved tyres. All this meant that, at a constant level of power set with the neat little sliders on the controller triggers, the V8 managed five laps to the DB5's four. The boxed set does not include parents who will offer helpful suggestions like "take turns" and "share" but anyone looking to avoid arguments might do well to remember it.
That said, the DB5 is the cooler car. That relative lack of grip does mean you can manage some aggressive drifting, though the odds of that fishtailing leaving you high and dry (or low and on the carpet) are pretty good. The track has a figure-8 arrangement, and the DB5 might benefit from the inner lane where that aggressive swing can be used to knock the rival off at the chicane-style element. That's hard to judge though, but practice makes perfect. That's the other part of "take turns" - another few laps and I'm sure I'll get that car-ate chop working perfectly. Until then there's always the benefit of head-long and head-on, if not head-butting.
Detail of the front of the James Bond 007 Scalextric cars Photo: Andrew Robertson
The vehicles are excellent replicas, even including the Superleggara logo of the DB5's Italian coachbuilder. The number plates don't rotate but they're another place where high fidelity printing has been used. The colours are lush: the deep dark metallic tone of the later car and the bright silver of the older have a bit of depth to them. That's also where the bulk of the set's retail price goes. It is £159.99 from scalextric.com, outside any seasonal sales or discounts. A single car will set you back £53.99 and this has all you need to get started, including the power supply. There's a 'micro' set in a smaller scale, 1:64 is at the upper end of Matchbox or Hot Wheels. That's just £49.99 but it's not compatible with the larger tracks or cars.
These cars both have the option to upgrade to the digital control system that allows multiple cars on each track, but that's a pricy upgrade. At a similar price-point you could get eight of Lego's Aston Martin DB5, but movie cars and movie car fans are not the same.
James Bond in miniature in a Scalextric car Photo: Andrew Robertson
As with the set we looked at last year, this represents a reasonable starting point. Unlike the one with two iconic vehicles I wouldn't say this also represented a car pack with some added extras. In that article I hoped for a Bluesmobile with speaker, and I'm delighted that it is part of the range. There's also a white Ford Mustang convertible which is more appropriate to Goldfinger, with a red interior like the one Tilly Masterton drove. In the 1965 AC Gilbert slot car set, it was a red hard-top, on a more detailed but less flexible track. Scalextric's original set had a black Mercedes 190SL so this is more accurate. A copy of Gran Turismo 7 is about £30, but you'd need to spend around 15 times more than that to get a PS5 to play it on. There's definitely a nostalgia angle here, and it's possibly aimed more at the adult collector than any outer child.
There are only a handful of layouts possible with the track included. Without the crossover to make a figure eight you can have a relatively disappointing oval, though that could redress the balance between the two vehicles if the faster were always on the outside. It'd also give the DB5 more room to whip-crack its tail out, though as Indiana Jones would tell you that will often require you to hang on to your hat. I've not yet had the chance to combine these sets for a bigger layout, and see how Q does across the continuum if I put the DeLorean up against the DB5, but I shall over the festive period. That's one of the great joys of this sort of toy. As Conan says, what is best in life is crashing one's racing cars before one and hearing the lamentation of one's siblings.